We have just had the 2013 World Latte Art Championships in Nice, France, and the organisation chose industry experts from countries all over the world to be the judges critiquing these world class baristas.
Lance Brown from Lion Dairy and Brent Williams From DaVinci Gourmet Beverages were Australia’s chosen judges. Both these gentleman have been well known as judges in the Australian and Asian coffee market, and it was just recognition for their skills that rewarded them as chosen accredited latte art judges.
The timing for Lance meant that unfortunately work commitments prevented him from travelling to Nice; however, Brent eagerly made the trip and participated as a judge in this prestigious event.
Café Culture Magazine is proud of their achievements and have asked this elite duo some questions about the judging process.
Guys, for how many years have you been judging latte art competitions?
Sean, it’s almost humorous that both Brent and I have ended up as World Latte Art Judges for Australia. The focus in Australia for the past decade has been on the barista aspect of our industry and getting those skills up to a world standard level with the latte part of the competition, whilst important to the competitors, was almost a secondary event. As the skills of the competitors have developed from a three leaf tulip through to a 17 leaf rosetta in a macchiato cup (thanks Ben Morrow), so has the interest in this event. People can relate to latte art, as they see it in their everyday lives. It may not be at a world standard in their local café, but these baristas are artists in the world of coffee.
I have now been Judging Latte Art for 12 years.
What sort of testing were you subjected to, to ensure you had what it takes to judge at the Worlds?
Brent and I were nominated by Mr Carl Sara, Chairman of World Coffee Events. We had judged at numerous state and national events alongside Carl both in Australia and overseas and when the opportunity presented itself to sit the accreditation process, we jumped at the chance.
The accreditation is composed of two parts. Firstly, the theory tests where we had to draw and label the 2013 World Latte Art score sheet, including descriptors and score values. This was no easy task. The second part of the theory was a visual exam of past latte art work where we had to score the images and provide constructive detailed “rule based” comments.
The most daunting part of the accreditation was the practical examination, whereby in a “competition environment” we were evaluated on our coffee knowledge and our interaction with the competitor, as well as the ability to provide quality, constructive feedback to a latte art competitor, in an effort for them to be the best they could be moving forward.
Brent, were you excited about Nice, and how did you prepare for this competition?
I was actually very apprehensive. When you judge this level of competition you have the ability to change someone’s future. It is a big responsibility and one I take very seriously. As such, I transferred all the rules onto my iPod, which I continuously listened to for the weeks leading up to the competition. I also practiced my judging on all the coffees I was served during my regular café visits leading up to heading over to Nice, to ensure I was comfortable in my decisions.
How do you judge latte art at a high level when the competition is so close?
It’s all about the rules. You have to know the criteria and look for the competitors that are willing to be both creative and at the same time take risks. It’s not about playing it safe at a world level. The mastery of your craft and doing something which surprises is the key difference between the competitors at this level.
Brent, Australia has done very well in past latte art competitions. It must have been exciting to see Jen Marks perform in Nice. Did she draw a big crowd?
All of the competitors pulled the crowds during the competition. But as you mentioned, Australia have done very well in the past, so there was a bit of apprehension as to what Jen was going to unleash.
It is a big ask to fly to Nice and bring out your best performance with coffee and milk you are not used to, but Jen did a fantastic job and Australia should be proud.
Lance, your company Lion Dairy and Drinks has sponsored many world latte art champions over the past decade. This must raise the profile of the art here in Australia?
With 98% of all coffee based espresso beverages in Australia containing milk, we certainly have high expectations of our latte art champions every time we compete on the world stage. It will be an honour for Pura to be the milk sponsor at next year’s World Latte Art Championships in Melbourne, and hopefully Brent and I will be there judging on the final day.
Guys, will you become involved in latte art events in the future?
We are dedicated to the latte art form of competition, because we believe it is a show of real skill. To be able to produce your best under immense pressure with only milk and a jug is much harder than it is given credit for.
Hopefully next year’s World Latte Art Championships in Melbourne will be a great event, and it should provide an excellent opportunity for Australians to enjoy and appreciate this very difficult form of competition.